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Continuing our annual “11Days, 11 Stories” series honoring Veterans this month, where we spotlight the stories of veterans we have met through our work here at Operation Homefront.  You can find previous stories here:

2012. Crowds filled the stands at a home game for the Houston Astros against the Colorado Rockies. Little did the fans know that they would soon see a life-changing event on the field as Operation Homefront and Chase donated a home to a deserving veteran of the war in Iraq, medically retired Army Specialist Quintin Muirhead and his wife Jennifer.

Just a few months into Muirhead’s deployment to Iraq in 2009, swine flu spread among the troops. When he grew weak and went to the medic, doctors discovered something much more serious. A number of tests revealed he had both pneumonia and leukemia. He fell into a coma on his way to a medical facility in Germany, where the diseases continued to weaken his body. After two months in a coma, he awoke and the pneumonia was gone. The leukemia, however, was not and Muirhead spent the next few months undergoing chemotherapy.

After chemotherapy, the Muirheads were ready for a new life. But they faced numerous challenges that made life increasingly difficult. Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio, which provides transitional housing for wounded heroes and their families, gave the young couple the fresh start they needed. But what came next would truly start them on the path to a strong, stable, and secure future.

The Muirheads’ were selected to be the first ever recipients of a new home through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program. The couple were awarded a home in the Houston suburb of Katy that day at the Houston Astro’s game.

We caught up with Quentin to see how life has changed since leaving the service and starting over.

“Transitioning is harder than I thought. You develop so wanting habits and become use to so many routines that just go out the window.”

In the years since he received his mortgage-free home, Quentin has been able to pay off debts, build savings, and he even started his own business. He is also a semester away from getting his degree in business.

Quentin has come to terms that his body will never be the same. “I’m constantly in pain but as long as I wake up each day I’m willing to accept that pain.” But now, he won’t allow that to slow him down. “I finally feel like I’m enjoying my life, being able to travel, and save money.” Other members of his family have since moved to Katy, an opportunity Quentin attributes to his being able to put down roots for all of them.

His advice for other veterans facing transition? “I’ve also learned it’s ok to ask for help or admit when something is wrong. A lot of the times we let our pride get in the way of getting the help we need and deserve.”

Find out how you can help a wounded hero today. Visit our Current Needs page  or make a donation to OperationHomefront.org. 92% of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs and services for military families in need.

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What an exciting time. Last week, we celebrated the 500th family to find that special place to call home thanks to our Homes on the Homefront program and our partners Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Meritage Homes.

IMG959296Moving around is part of military life. Blooming where you are planted becomes a way of life. But when service to country is coming to a close, many families begin to dream of planting roots and creating their forever home.

Last Friday, the dream came true for Andrew and his family after years of uncertainty.

Andrew, a Navy veteran, deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and served one year in combat. In 2014, he was honorably discharged and suffers from post-traumatic stress. Since their transition into civilian life, the family has moved three times. It has been unpleasant and unstable for Andrew and his family. Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Andrew, who was raised in Atlanta, received a mortgage-free home in Bethlehem, Georgia.

Andrew and his family have come home.

BethlehemGAhomeEach family we have been honored to meet and support through our Homes on the Homefront program is unique. They were born and raised in large cities and small towns. Many have served in combat and still carry the seen and unseen wounds of war. What they share in common is the call to serve and then find their place when that service is over.

At Friday’s ceremony, Chief Operating Officer Robert Thomas spoke of the driving force behind the Homes on the Homefront program. “At Operation Homefront, we believe that owning a home is part of the American dream,” said Thomas. “After helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, we want to help our service members and their families realize their own American dreams.”

“We want to thank Operation Homefront and Chase for this opportunity,” said Andrew. “I wanted to do this for my wife because she moved around the country and dealt with my military enlistment. I thank them for making this possible, providing a stable home, and that we don’t have to worry about making the next rent payment – now we have a roof over our head.”

Those of us who work in the military and veteran community are acutely aware that stability and strong social support when transitioning out of the military can make a difference and help avoid the roadblocks and challenges that contribute to the still concerning number of homeless veterans. Today, more than 500 families are making memories and providing stable and secure futures for themselves in every state in America.

Total HOTH Homes Jan 2016

Along with our emergency assistance programs that offer assistance with rent and mortgages and our transitional housing at Operation Homefront Villages, the Homes on the Homefront program is having a life-changing impact for these families at a critical time.

And that is a reason to celebrate.

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View more pictures from the event.

Part of the American dream always has been owning a home. After helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, we want to help our warriors and their families realize their own American dreams. Through a partnership with Chase, Bank of American and Wells Fargo, Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program awards mortgage-free homes to veteran and military families.  Click here to view a list of currently available homes.

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At age 23, a young Californian named Jose Louis Ruiz decided he needed a new direction to make a difference in this world! So “Louie” joined the Marines. And it changed his life.

Louie served as a field artillery cannoneer. After honorably serving for 11 years, Louie was medically retired in 2015. The physical impact of service and repeated tours in a combat zone had finally taken its toll on his health.

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For Louie and his family, their lives were about to change.

At the time he was retired, Louie and his family were stationed in Japan. Because of the rapid nature of his transition from service, Louie, his wife and their two children were facing a return to the states without a secure place to call home. That was when they heard about Operation Homefront Villages, which provide rent-free transitional housing for wounded warrior families.

Louie applied to the program, and he and his family were accepted into the program into the Operation Homefront Village in California. During their time at the OH Village, they were able to save money and get their lives financially on track. “The Operation Homefront Village helped my family become strong, stable and secure to prepare for life after transition.”

What they didn’t know at the time was that something even greater was around the corner.

After hearing about our Homes on the Homefront program that provides mortgage-free homes to veteran families, Louie submitted an application.

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Louie and his wife were overcome with emotion when they were awarded a mortgage-free home through Homes on the Homefront. “We have a place to call home.”

As they waited for news, the family was invited by Operation Homefront to attend the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Military Appreciation Day. A fun afternoon for the family would turn out to be much more.

First, Louie and his wife were brought on stage to be honored for service.

Chase Auto Finance CEO Thasunda Duckett and Operation Homefront Chief Development Officer Margi Kirst said a few words of appreciation and then told them they had been chosen to receive a mortgage-free home in Murrieta, California!

The couple were overcome with emotion and disbelief. “So much stress will be lifted off of my shoulders because of (this),” said Louie. “We have a place to call home.”

Louie’s future plans are to settle into the new home, become financially stable, and go back to school to receive a bachelor’s degree.

“We are fortunate that we won’t have to be moving from place to place anymore,” said Louie. “Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, we have a home.”

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogOperation Homefront is closing in on awarding our 500th home through our Homes on the Homefront program. This would not be possible with the support of partners like Chase and our incredible community of donors. Learn more about our Homes the Homefront program at www.homesonthehomefront.org. To help address the housing concerns of our nation’s military and wounded warriors, consider supporting one of our Current Needs.

 

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Growing up in Florida, Tarmika Dancy wanted to make a difference. She wanted to be a role model to others, especially her younger sisters and cousins. Though no one in her family had ever served in the military, Tarmika knew that service to country was something honorable, a calling that others looked up to. So, when the time came to decide what to do with her life, Tarmika joined the United States Navy.

Her time in the Navy took her places the world over. She visited African nations, Greece, Estonia and Spain. One of her tours was a humanitarian mission to Haiti. But it wasn’t adventure and being a part of the greater good that Tarmika found in military service. She credits the service for giving the structure and tools to find herself, to become a well-rounded person ready for any challenge and opportunity.

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“I will forever be thankful for this opportunity that Operation Homefront and Chase gave me.”

After leaving the service, Tarmika had heard about Homes on the Homefront from someone speaking about available programs to assist veterans. Tarmika had been living with a relative and planning her next steps. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to begin the next chapter in her life, and she applied to be matched with one of our mortgage-free homes. Thanks to our partnership with Chase, we were able to match Tarmika with a home in her home state of Florida.

Because Operation Homefront is committed to ensuring successful home ownership, recipients reside in the property as a tenant of Operation Homefront for a period between one and two years. A customized transition plan is developed for each recipient, and they participate in financial counseling and other programs to help ensure long-term stability.

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“I want my younger sister to look up to me and be able to know that she too can succeed in life and that there is nothing that she cannot do.”

“Operation Homefront’s assistance has changed our lives dramatically by helping my family to have a more secure future… teaching me about the importance of financial literacy,” Tarmika shares, adding, “This program changes lives and not only helps the actual veteran but their families to succeed.”

Tarmika is finishing her Master’s degree and pursuing a dual degree in Human Resource Management and Management and Leadership. She also wants to help her younger sister get through college. “Being stable and able to take care of my family is one of the biggest career motivations in life. I want my younger sister to look up to me and be able to know that she too can succeed in life and that there is nothing that she cannot do.”

 

“I will forever be thankful for this opportunity that Operation Homefront and Chase gave me,” said Tarmika. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

 

Vets-Day_fbthumbBlogAfter helping to secure the freedoms all Americans enjoy, Operation Homefront wants to help our service members and their families realize their own American dreams. One way we achieve that is through our Homes on the Homefront program. To learn more about the program, visit www.homesonthehomefront.org

Operation Homefront is honored to be able to answer the call of our brave men and women in uniform during their service and as they transition.  We are able to make a difference in their lives because of the amazing supporters who stand beside us. If you would like to help answer the call, join us at www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall

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“I was blessed with a gift on my birthday” with Tim McGraw at his Chicago area stop, where Donna received a mortgage free home thanks to our partners at Chase.

When U.S. Army Sergeant and wounded warrior Donna Pratt won her first gold medal in the 2011 Valor Games Midwest, she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. She had become part of another kind of team.

Donna originally joined the military because she wanted to explore the world and needed a way to pay for college. She also wanted to answer the call to be a part of a team that was greater than herself. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Donna joined the U.S. Army in 1991 and again in 2007.

Her first tour was in the Gulf War. After serving for eight years, she reenlisted in 2007 and pursued a different mission fueled by a passion to do something after the events of Sept.11, 2001. She was assigned as a unit armorer responsible for fixing, distributing, and maintaining all weapons.

In 2008, she toured in Iraq. Because of injuries she incurred there, she began to suffer swelling and pain in her legs, which led to surgeries to repair damaged tendons, ligaments, and fractured bones in her feet and ankles. While she was in treatment, several soldiers in her unit were injured by an improvised explosive device and the guilt was difficult to deal with and she also battled PTSD.

Donna medically retired in 2012 and moved back to her hometown. She battled depression and felt like there wasn’t much she could do in her condition. During this time, she met her partner Tinisha and her five-year old son, which became her family. Tinisha took on the role of primary caregiver for Donna, but they struggled and Donna didn’t know how she was going to provide a secure and stable environment for her family.

Around this time, she heard about the Valor Games Midwest and decided to compete. And she did well, winning a gold medal in archery. And then she won some more, competing in sports like archery, cycling, shot put and discus. Over time with three gold medals under her belt, Donna regained confidence and found a new focus for her life. She hoped to attend a local university and continue to compete and become part of the U.S. Paralympics Team.

Operation Homefront first met Donna when she applied for and received a mortgage-free home in O’Fallon, Illinois, on her birthday. As part of the celebration, Donna got to meet Tim McGraw and go to his concert in the area, thanks to our friends at Chase who donated the home.

Between her new home and her sports, Donna is “racing” toward great things. She no longer has to worry about a mortgage payment so she is free to pursue her academic and athletic dreams.

“I want to truly thank Operation Homefront and Chase for looking down at a little person like me that decided to go and fight for our country’s freedom,” said Donna. “I was blessed with a gift on my birthday.”

vets-day_blog_thumbDonna is one of many veterans served by Operation Homefront’s various programs and services. To find out how Operation Homefront wants to help even more wounded heroes like Donna, visit www.operationhomefront.net/answerthecall .

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Military families learn early on that home is where the heart is, as they move across the country, or across the sea, and back again.

They learn that their foundation is not made of cement but it is built upon memories with other military families they cross paths with along the way. Most agree that, while it’s a great experience to see other states and cultures, it’s nice when you can finally settle in one place and put down some roots.

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U.S. Army National Guard Sergeant Brian Lynch and his family were recently awarded a mortgage-free from Chase, through our Homes on the Homefront program.

Our Homes on the Homefront program gives military and veteran families a chance to do that. Since 2012, we’ve awarded more than 400 homes to military and veteran families. Whether the key is handed over at a ceremony with VIPs and celebrities in attendance, or whether it’s a quiet event with a few pictures at the front doorstep, the impact is still huge.

These families, who have sacrificed so much in their lives, are now living mortgage-free.

That means that the dollars that were once used for rent can go to earning a degree or can be put away so a child can go to college later. It means they can pay off a car faster…or buy a newer one. It means that they have more freedom, choices and control over their future.

For one family, it means they can pay their medical bills.

U.S. Army National Guard Sergeant Brian Lynch joined the National Guard because he knew it would help him grow as an individual and add discipline to his life. In 2008, he enlisted in his hometown of Rockford, Minnesota and recently reenlisted for another seven years. In 2013, he served a tour in Afghanistan.

Brian married his childhood sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two children. Michelle has needed multiple surgeries due to a medical issue she was born with. Their finances have been stretched under the weight of significant medical expenses and monthly rent.

While they’ve tried to set aside money for a home, it hasn’t been enough. Brian heard about the Homes on Homefront program and applied for a home that was near his family.

Thanks to Operation Homefront and Chase, Brian was awarded a mortgage-free home in Zimmerman, Minnesota.

“It means the world to us,” said Brian, “now we don’t have to move from place to place.” He is looking forward to watching his kids grow up. He and Michelle have relatives living nearby and look forward to spending the holidays together.

“I would like to say thanks and that we are very grateful,” added Brian. “I was gone for a year, but now if I go again, my family is able to do things without me being there.”

They can now settle in and place their heart and their home in one spot.

eckrich-operation-homefront-cmt-hot-20-countdown-randy-houserThe Lynch family were featured on the CMT Hot 20 Countdown episode today. As part of their home giveaway surprise at Country Thunder in late July, they got to meet country music star Randy Houser, enjoy a great cookout with Eckrich and learn that they were also going to receive free groceries for a year from Walmart.

To find out more about our Homes on the Homefront program and see available homes across the U.S., go to www.homesonthehomefront.org. Thanks to our partners Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Meritage Homes for donating homes to this program.

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HOTH_home_CallForEntriesAlbanyGAThrough our Homes on the Homefront program, mortgage-free homes, like this one in Albany, GA, are currently open for application. We also currently have open homes in CA, CT, FL, IL, MD and TX. While we don’t know when homes will open in  a particular state, if you are eligible and fill out an application, you will be notified via email when new homes open for application. Find out more at www.homesonthehomefront.org.

In addition, three of the homes come to us from our friends at Meritage Homes who have renewed their partnership with Operation Homefront to provide three more brand new Meritage homes to the Homes on the Homefront program.

Meritage Homes plans to build and donate a home in each of the following three Meritage communities: Winter Springs, Florida; Lincoln, California; and Houston, Texas. Find out more about our amazing partnership and how to apply.

In order to qualify for the Homes on the Homefront Program, the following requirements must be met:

— Must have an honorable discharge if a Veteran. This includes dual Military/Veteran couples; each Military Veteran must have an honorable discharge in order to qualify for the program.

— Cannot be a current home owner or mortgage holder. This includes any household member that would be residing in the home.

— Cannot have a felony criminal conviction. This includes all adult household members that would  reside in the home.

— Must have supporting documentation such as proof of income, VA paperwork, DD214 (member 2, 4, 7 or 8), Military ID and or government issued picture ID in order to process your application.

— If you or a member of your immediate family (parents, spouse etc.) are employed by Chase, Wells Fargo, or Bank of America you may not be eligible for homes donated by that banking institution, and we ask for full disclosure of the employment in that case.

And stay tuned… for the first time, we’ll have a residence in the Aloha State very soon!

 

 

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